Greyhound allegedly permitted C.B.P. agents in Washington state to board its buses and detain passengers without a warrant or probable cause.
Greyhound Lines Inc. will pay $2.2 million to settle a lawsuit accusing the bus company of allowing U.S. Customs & Border Protection agents to perform warrantless immigration sweeps aboard buses in Washington state.
According to National Public Radio, the company did not warn customers of the sweeps and misrepresented its own role in letting the searches occur.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said passengers faced discrimination on the basis of their skin color and apparent ethnicity.
The multi-million dollar settlement will be used to recompense passengers who were detained, arrest, or deported after Border Protection probes at the Spokane Intermodal Center in northwest Washington state.
N.P.R. notes that passenger awards will vary in accordance with the number of claims filed, and the amount of harm suffered by each claimant.
“Greyhound has an obligation to its customers—an obligation it cannot set aside so immigration agents can go on fishing expeditions aboard its buses,” Ferguson said in a statement.
In spite of the settlement, Greyhound indicated that it is pleased with the case’s outcome.
“By agreeing to the consent decree, we will more extensively communicate to our customers the policies and procedures we already have in place to serve the citizens of Washington state,” Greyhound said in a short press release.
Alongside paying restitution to passengers, Greyhound will have to implement other corporate policy changes, including:
- Creating a corporate policy denying Customs and Border Protection agents from boarding its buses in Washington without a warrant or reasonable suspicion; and
- Issuing a public statement clarifying that Greyhound does not consent to agents boarding its buses without a warrant or reasonable suspicion; and
- Placing stickers on or near the front of bus door stating that immigration officers may not board without a warrant or reasonable suspicion.
N.P.R. reports that the settlement was filed in Spokane County Superior Court on Monday, the same day the complaint was supposed to move to trial.
Ferguson said that Greyhound could have saved itself a lot of trouble if it had simply collaborated with his office.
“My office first insisted that Greyhound make these corporate reforms in 2019,” Ferguson said. “If Greyhound had simply accepted our reasonable demand, they would have avoided a lawsuit.”
The Associated Press observes that Greyhound has come under fire for its immigration-related practices before. Earlier this year, Libyan-born comedia Mohanad Elshieky was awarded $35,000 after Customs & Border Protection agents wrongfully removed him from a bus before detaining and interrogating him.
C.B.P. agents, adds The A.P., held Elshieky for nearly half an hour and purportedly accused him of showing fake papers.
Another Greyhound passenger, Andres Sosa Segura, filed another lawsuit over a 2017 encounter with C.B.P.; he, too, was awarded $35,000.
“The hours I spent detained for no reason were terrifying, and all I wanted was to be with my family,” Sosa Segura said in a Northwest Immigration Rights Project news release. “I hope that this case sends a message that C.B.P. agents need to respect the rights of people like me.”